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Home –» Kumaon Trek–» Nanda Devi Inner Sanctuary

Nanda Devi Inner Sanctuary

Base : Nanda Devi Inner Sanctuary
Trek DurationGrade Permits Personal Equipments
25 days (Delhi - Delhi) Actual Trekking: 12 days Strenuous Inner line permit from the Government of India required. Sleeping bags, clothing

Trip Highlights
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The Nanda Devi Sanctuary in the Garhwal Himalayas of India is a unique geographical feature. A concentration of peaks connected by massive walls which dip no lower than 17,000ft/5200m form an enormous amphitheater of 250 square miles of land all over 13,000ft/4000m. The only exception is the point where the Rishi Ganga which drains this great basin emerges to the West in one of the most terrific gorges in the world. In this ring of mountains are at least twelve peaks over 21,500ft/6500m including several famous names such as Changabang and Dunagiri to the North, and Trisuli, Nanda Kot to the West and South. In the center is the goddess mountain Nanda Devi a manifestation of Shiva's wife Parvati herself. At 25,643ft/7816m this is the highest peak situated completely in India. Until 1934 this Sanctuary had never been penetrated by human beings. In 1983 the Indian government closed the Sanctuary. The delicate ecology of this hitherto pristine space needed time to regenerate after the inevitable damage caused by expeditions and shepherds who were also finding their way in.

We have been lucky to get special permissions for a British research group for study of Flora & Fauna in the core of the Nanda Devi Sanctuary. We feel that this would help in setting environmental guidelines for future groups. This group includes Mr. Ian Mc Naugth Davis the president of UIAA, Mr. Gorge Band of Kanchenjunga fame, John Shipton son of Eric Shipton the first to explore the sanctuary and Col. N. Kumar the leader of the first successful Indian ascent on Nanda Devi. We hope to be able to persuade the Indian Government to allow more environment / research groups into the sanctuary in 2002 as a special case. You may contact us for further details.



Day 1 : Arrive Delhi, At Leisure.
Transfer to the Hotel. This is one of the best hotels at the heart of the city. After an overnight flight, recovering from jet lag by the swimming pool is an enticing option, but if you have the energy to sample India, Delhi has a lot to offer.

Day 2 : Train to Rishikesh.
We leave Delhi at dawn as the huge city starts to come to life, and transfer to the train station to catch the 07.10hrs Shatabdi Express to Haridwar, arriving there at 11.10hrs. Even after the twentieth visit travel through India never ceases to astound. After four hours we reach Haridwar which is one of the holiest of Hindu cities being where the Ganges enters the plains. We reach Rishikesh for lunch, and after a well-earned siesta can walk along the banks of the Ganges by the many famous Ashrams. At sunset, at Triveni Ghat, you can join the pilgrims in making a puja to the Ganga by floating a little boat of candle and incense on the river. Overnight at Hotel Natraj.

Day 3 : Drive to Joshimath. (6,200ft/1,890m)
Drive to Joshimath another early start for the long drive up the Ganges and Alaknanda rivers to Joshimath. We travel along an asphalt road that now takes the pilgrims in buses and cars, but many holy men still walk. The road is often tortuous but full of spectacular views of the Ganga, Alaknanda and their ever steepening surrounding banks and hillsides Along with a lunch stop we may have time to get in a swim in the river, an auspicious thing to do. Overnight Uday Palace Hotel.

Day 4 : At Leisure in Joshimath.
After a long day on the road we take a well-deserved rest. Joshimath is an interesting little town. Really a pilgrimage staging post it is perched on a steep slope several hundred metres above the river and is usually teeming with pilgrims preparing to go on the last stage up the Alaknanda gorge to Badrinath. But there are important shrines here too, especially the Na Sing temple complex, and the temple and ancient tree under which the great Hindu philosopher Shankara gained enlightenment.
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Day 5 : Drive to Lata. (2,437m/ 45 minutes)
While the pilgrims head up the Alaknanda gorge, we take the road leading east following the Dhauli Ganga to Lata - a small village just past where the Rishi Ganga meets the larger Dhauli Ganga. A five-hour drive, we pass the village of Tapoban, just beyond which a hot spring erupts across the road. We are now going where few travelers have been allowed for some years. Lata is our trailhead, and the dirt road continues North along the Dhauli Ganga to Malari and the mountains bordering Tibet. Shipton too camped here and in light shoes sprinted up Lata mountain 3848m, a wooded peak above the village, to get their first view of the gorge ahead. The camp at Lata is on the road side in an abandoned potato field. Camp at Lata.

Day 6: Trek to Lata Kharak. (6-7 hours / 3,800 mts)
The first day's trek is a hard pull up above Lata village to Lata Kharak. A Kharak is a summer pasture and often an area of grazing just above the tree line. The stiff climb will take us up through Rhododendron, Oak and "Chir" pine forest, emerging onto the grassland at just under 13,000ft/4000m. As we start at around 8,200ft/2500m this is a considerable gain in altitude, and will be test of fitness of the group. However an early start and a slow steady pace will make it an enjoyable climb through Himalayan forest, our first opportunity to observe its diverse flora and fauna.

Day 7: Rest and Acclimatisation
The gain of height to that of a major alpine peak will be noticed by everybody, even locals. So today we will spend a day enjoying the views from the Kharak, and generally acclimatising. When Shipton and Tilman first came in the spring the ground was thick with melting winter snow. The day can be utilized for a two hours trek to Seni Kharak to get our first views of the Nanda Devi and the formidable Rishi Groge. Return to Lata Kharak for overnight in tents.

Day 8 : Trek to Dribugheta. (3,300m / 7-8 hours)

We cross our first pass Dharansi Khal 4250m, part of a ridge coming down from the great Dunagiri above, and a watershed between the Dhauli and Rishi Ganga. From here we contour round to reach the meadows of the Dharansi plateau. Due to paucity of water we will not camp here. We walk across the Dharansi plateau and drop steeply to a beautiful grazing pasture at Dribhugheta. It is a long decent of atleast 2 1/2 hours which ends at a stream which we cross over and climb for 15 minutes to our camp. In snow conditions a couple of rock ridges will need fixed rope here.

Day 9 : This provides our next camp, Dibrugheta perched above the great gorge, which Shipton described as "one of the loveliest spots it had ever been his good fortune to behold", and Tilman more graphically perhaps as "a horizontal oasis in a vertical desert". The pasture was used by shepherds but beyond this point locals never ventured before 1934.
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Day 10 : Trek to Deodi. (approx, 10,800ft/2,300m)
We now have to make our way up the great gorge of the Rishi Ganga itself. For us the first day is horizontal travel allowing for plenty of ups and downs as the path makes its way into the gorge. We cross the Rishi Ganga at Deodi on what Hamish Brown in the seventies described as a doddery bridge. This is our next camp so we have actually sustained a net loss of altitude. Shipton and Tilman crossed further up, manufacturing their own bridge by cutting down trees with the assistance of their porters.

Day 11 : Trek to Rhamani.
Working our way up and down, contouring up the gorge on the Southern bank this time we reach Rhamani our camp which is a small level area between the cliffs and the raging torrent of the Rishi Ganga. The camp is named after the Rhamani river that joins the Rishi Ganga from the North from the Rhamani Glacier flowing from Changabang. Just beyond our camp on the northern bank was Longstaff's final camp and the furthest point reached by man until Shipton and Tilman.

Day 12 : Trek to Patalkakhan.
This is the crucial stage of entry into the Sanctuary. Above Rhamani is the great box canyon, that is, a canyon whose sides rise perpendicularly from the waters. Before this Longstaff and Graham had turned back, but Shipton and Tilman with their three sherpas explored and found cracks and gullies across the slabs, often sheer hundreds of meters above the river which eventually took them above their "Pisgah" or Promised land buttress into the sanctuary. Today takes trekking into a different dimension, and Hamish Brown commented that "one expects the spectacular, the difficult when climbing - not walking!" The trail has been blazed, but it will take nerve and determination on the part of all members to win through. Depending on conditions we could camp at a slab platform now known as Tilchaunani, but if time permits a better camp a little higher and over some more slabs is at Patalkhan. We are now almost at 4500m and have entered the Inner Sanctuary.

Day 13 : Trek to Nanda Deve South Base Camp.
From our camp Nanda Devi herself towers 10,000ft/3000m immediately above us. For Shipton the excitement of being in totally unexplored country was unsurpassable, "each corner held some thrilling secret to be revealed for the trouble of looking." Near the camp is the junction of two rivers that join to form the Rishi Ganga. One heads to the North of Nanda Devi, and up into the Northern half of the Sanctuary. This is the direction Shipton and Tilman took on their first entrance. When they came back after the monsoon of 1934 they explored the southern half. It was following the southern river that Tilman's 1936 expedition took, and we shall follow this route to our camp at Nanda Devi South base.

Days 14 - 15 -16 : Exploration of the Inner Sanctuary.
We now have three days to explore the Sanctuary. We are presented with a number of enticing possibilities, and hopefully we will be blessed with the best of weather. We can explore the glaciers to the South of Nanda Devi, or head South to where Shipton and Tilman made their dramatic exit in 1934, or we could cross the Rishi to try to sample the Northern Sanctuary and view the tremendous North faces of Nanda Devi.
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Day 17 -: Trek to Bhojgara.
All things must come to an end and we now have to leave the Sanctuary to its own devices, and start our thrilling descent. On our way back we can make use of a small camp we passed on our ascent at a place where tent spaces have been cut out of the slopes, a spectacular setting looking out across to the sheer cliff of hundreds of metres on the northern side of the gorge.

Day 18 : Trek to Deodi.
Today we negotiate the now familiar but no less exhilarating slabs, to regain our more normal trekking grounds on arrival at Rhamani. We continue past our old camp back to Deodi where we crossed the gorge on our way up.

Day 19 : Trek to Dharansi.
Having crossed the Rishi Ganga we retrace our contouring of the gorge on the northern bank. Passing the alpine idyll of Debrughita again, we make the steep climb up to our hanging valley of Dharanshi

Day 20 : Trek to Lata.
Today we make our way over the pass and with the Dhauli Ganga again in view far below us we pass through Lata Kharak and plunge down through the forest to camp again at Lata.

Day 21 : Drive to Joshimath.
We are met by jeeps in the morning and drive back to Joshimath, and Tilman's "fleshpots", perhaps stopping on the way to enjoy the hot springs again outside Tapoban. Overnight at the comparatively luxurious Uday Palace Hotel.

Day 22 : Drive to Rishikesh.
Today we have the long drive back to Rishikesh, but the hard journey is made pleasurable by the increasing warmth as we descend again into the sub tropics. Just outside Rishikesh we will stop and cross the Ganges in rubber rafts to stay on the silver sand beach rafting camp on the banks of Holy Ganga.

Day 23 : Optional Morning Rafting and Overnight Train.
Today from the camp we can sample white water rafting. This is a wonderful way to wind down from our trek, gently floating down the Ganges, and with the occasional excitement of a rapid or two, passing temples set in subtropical forest. In the evening we are taken to Haridwar station to catch the overnight train to Delhi. Overnight first class train travel in India is something to be sampled at least once.

Day 24 : Arrive Delhi
Transfer to the Hotel. Rest of the day at leisure to relax and 'do your own thing'. In the late evening we transfer by taxi to the airport to board our return flight home.

Day 25 - Fly Out.
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